Imagine if Willy Wonka was to tinker with technology and create various flavors just by licking your gadgets? It sounds cool, and it seems like a researcher from Japan is about to make that possible. 

Homei Miyashita, a researcher from Meiji University in Japan, has invented what he calls a Norimaki Synthesizer which allows an artificial recreation of any flavor just by playing with the 5 different tastes found on our tongue. 

We know from science that our tongue has different areas where high concentration of taste buds allow us to identify if something is sweet, sour, salty, bitter, spicy, and even umami—a taste which you cannot just describe using the four other flavors, but plays an important role in our consumption of food. These flavors are also evenly distributed in our tongue. 

The inspiration for the prototype device by Miyashita came from how our eyes see what’s on our gadgets’ screen. Take for example your smartphone. What you see as a mere screen is actually made up of microscopic pixels of red, green, and blue elements that merge in different intensities to project full-color images you are now staring at. Unless the screen’s broken can you see what it is really made off. 


Miyashita thought it would also apply to the tongue, thus the birth of his Norimaki Synthesizer also known as a taste display. There have been experiments in the past in which inventors would attempt to simulate tastes on the tongue without consuming food. However, the past attempts were merely an enhancement of flavors such as making something sweeter without really adding sugar. 

The Norimaki Synthesizer is more than just specifically focusing on one flavor. In fact, it contains color-coded gels to trigger the tastes of the human tongue. These gels are made from agar in the shape of long tubes and uses the following to highlight their respective flavors:

  • Glycine to recreate what is sweet
  • Citric acid for what is acidic
  • Sodium chloride for what is salty
  • Magnesium choloride for what is bitter
  • Glumatic sodium for what is umami

So, how does it work? Users basically press it on their tongue, and they get to experience all five tastes together, however particular flavors are created by playing with the specific amounts and intensities of these five. 

This is also done by wrapping a copper foil on the device so that it emits an electrical circuit throughout the human body ones it is held and pressed to the tongue. This technique is known as electrophoresis. 

Electrophoresis is also responsible for moving molecules in gel when current is applied, organizing them by size based on the size of pores found in the gel. Here though, the ingredients located in the agar tube simply move away so that the tongue will not be able to taste them. In that case, it adjusts for users to taste what candy tastes like or even sushi without the physical presence of these food around. 

The device as of current is a bit bulky, however it’s just a prototype and could easily be adjusted towards a more compact design. In this way it would be just like a handheld device where you can press it on your tongue to satisfy your cravings without gaining weight. 

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